Creating ‘viral content’ has to be about more than just putting up stuff that people want to share but injecting the data back into the system as part of a feedback loop to improve content. Carla Faria, Director of Solutions (UK & Canada) at Say Media looks at the opportunities of harnessing the power of social media when building a modern CMS.
Social media isn’t everyone’s best friend, contrary to popular belief. It’s regarded as surprisingly ‘Marmite’ and is arguably both the biggest opportunity and the most troubling threat for marketers and publishers since the birth of the internet – perhaps even since the birth of the telephone.
Living so much of our lives online, we regular folk can now watch ads, enjoy editorial and comment on just about anything, all in real time. Once, we were blissfully passive consumers, willingly receiving a stream of messages brought to us via mass media; now, we have the power to make or break ads or content, simply by hitting a ‘like’ or ‘share’ button.
Anyone who doubts the power of social media to deliver a body blow to a brand only need look at some of the biggest marketing own goals of 2014 – like US pizza company DiGiorno, which contributed the comment “You had pizza” to #WhyIStayed, without stopping to think that the discussion was all about why women remained in abusive relationships.
Social media optimisation is a critical part of a modern content management system, and it’s a given that if you want your CMS to be fit for purpose it will have social media sharing capabilities built in, so that commenting on and sharing ads, videos, music and words is effortless.
Obviously, that also means you’re bestowing upon readers the power to share things they don’t like – but you can’t separate love and hate and, as Marmite knows, sometimes the haters are just as valuable at promoting your brand as the lovers.
But maximising the power of social media is about more than just making it easy for people to share. A modern CMS also needs to be constantly monitoring the social media traffic that a piece of content generates and using that information to update, evolve and refine the content.
At Say Media, we’ve built our Tempest platform to do just that. It collects sharing statistics from seven of the most popular social networks, including metrics like the number of Facebook shares and likes, Twitter retweets and favourites, Pinterest pins and repins and so on.
Obviously, we use this to understand how our social media integration is performing – but the interesting thing about Tempest is that, using the real time analysis, we can be tracking an article or a set of articles and using the data to constantly update accompanying links and suggestions for other content the viewer might be interested in.
As an example, take the xoJane.com homepage. Part of the homepage is made up of articles automatically selected based on the traction they are getting on Facebook and Twitter. The idea is to detect articles that are popular on social media and help new visitors to the site discover those articles as well.
We are doing more than just tracking ‘reads’, ‘likes’ or ‘shares’, however; the point isn’t to keep score and create league tables, it’s to look into the raw data and get a genuine understanding of what issues are trending right now. What we share with readers is what content is being discussed on social media as they are looking at the site in real time.
Each time a new data point is acquired for any given article or piece of content (such as a new number of shares on Facebook or Twitter), we run it through a complex algorithm to come up with a new trending score. We can also build in a shelf life, depending on the nature of the site and its audience, so that the content they are directed to is always new, fresh and interesting.
Tempest computes social media numbers in real time and maintains a list of the top 100 trending articles on each site for each trending algorithm we are using. We are experimenting with multiple trending algorithms, changing variables such as the time period the content was created during, how old it is, how relevant it is to a target audience and where the data we are crunching is coming from. We then use these results to determine the content that people see on various sections of the homepage or other parts of the site.
Creating ‘viral content’ has to be about more than just putting up stuff that people want to share and then walking away. The internet is all about interactivity and creating conversations with people, and that means listening to them and talking to them (as opposed to talking at them).
The internet ended the mass broadcast era and led to the fragmentation of media channels. Simultaneously, it put control into the hands of ordinary citizens. Social media has accelerated that process.
But we can do much more than simply live with this new paradigm. We can harness the possibilities of social media and use what people are saying, doing and sharing as part of a feedback loop to improve our content, make it even more compelling – and drive even more comment, which we can inject back into our system and our sites.
By Carla Faria
Director of Solutions (UK & Canada)